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Verónica Melesse Vergara speaks with third and fourth graders at East Side Intermediate School in Brownsville. Credit: ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Twenty-seven ORNL researchers Zoomed into 11 middle schools across Tennessee during the annual Engineers Week in February. East Tennessee schools throughout Oak Ridge and Roane, Sevier, Blount and Loudon counties participated, with three West Tennessee schools joining in.


A multi-institutional team, led by a group of investigators at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has been studying various SARS-CoV-2 protein targets, including the virus’s main protease. The feat has earned the team a finalist nomination for the Association of Computing Machinery, or ACM, Gordon Bell Special Prize for High Performance Computing-Based COVID-19 Research.

ORNL assisted in investigating proteins called porins, one shown in red, which are found in the protective outer membrane of certain disease-causing bacteria and tether the membrane to the cell wall. Credit: Hyea (Sunny) Hwang/Georgia Tech and ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory used high-performance computing to create protein models that helped reveal how the outer membrane is tethered to the cell membrane in certain bacteria.

The first neutron structure of the SARS-CoV-2 main protease enzyme revealed unexpected electrical charges in the amino acids cysteine (negative) and histidine (positive), providing key data about the virus’s replication. Credit: Jill Hemman/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

To better understand how the novel coronavirus behaves and how it can be stopped, scientists have completed a three-dimensional map that reveals the location of every atom in an enzyme molecule critical to SARS-CoV-2 reproduction.

Enzyme activity during organophosphate poisoning

Pick your poison. It can be deadly for good reasons such as protecting crops from harmful insects or fighting parasite infection as medicine — or for evil as a weapon for bioterrorism. Or, in extremely diluted amounts, it can be used to enhance beauty.

Analyses of lung fluid cells from COVID-19 patients conducted on the nation’s fastest supercomputer point to gene expression patterns that may explain the runaway symptoms produced by the body’s response to SARS-CoV-2. Credit: Jason B. Smith/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

A team led by Dan Jacobson of Oak Ridge National Laboratory used the Summit supercomputer at ORNL to analyze genes from cells in the lung fluid of nine COVID-19 patients compared with 40 control patients.

The protease protein is both shaped like a heart and functions as one, allowing the virus replicate and spread. Inhibiting the protease would block virus reproduction. Credit: Andrey Kovalevsky/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

A team of researchers has performed the first room-temperature X-ray measurements on the SARS-CoV-2 main protease — the enzyme that enables the virus to reproduce.

Computing – Mining for COVID-19 connections

Scientists have tapped the immense power of the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to comb through millions of medical journal articles to identify potential vaccines, drugs and effective measures that could suppress or stop the spread of COVID-19.

Coronavirus graphic

In the race to identify solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory are joining the fight by applying expertise in computational science, advanced manufacturing, data science and neutron science.

Scientists created a novel polymer that is as effective as natural proteins in transporting protons through a membrane. Credit: ORNL/Jill Hemman

Biological membranes, such as the “walls” of most types of living cells, primarily consist of a double layer of lipids, or “lipid bilayer,” that forms the structure, and a variety of embedded and attached proteins with highly specialized functions, including proteins that rapidly and selectively transport ions and molecules in and out of the cell.